- The Washington Times - Friday, July 25, 2008

Danica Patrick has a habit of getting into the face of other IndyCar Series drivers only to be granted a pass because of her face and femininity.

Patrick likes to provide driver’s education tips to the rest of the field, which is not always taken in the proper spirit.

Patrick was looking to help Milka Duno in Lexington, Ohio, last weekend after being unable to pass her during a practice run.

Patrick wanted to know if Duno was too busy applying eyeliner to notice that someone was trying to leave her jalopy in the exhaust fumes.

Patrick emphasized the point with profanity, which is straight out of Dale Carnegie’s book, “How to Win Friends and Influence People.”

Not surprisingly, Duno took exception to the questioning and threw a towel in Patrick’s face.

Fortunately, Patrick did not have a towel in her possession or the confrontation could have deteriorated into one of the great towel-offs in sports history.

Instead, Patrick let Duno know what she thought of her steering technique in language that would make truckers blush.

Oddly enough, Patrick claimed she was a victim of her popularity, which apparently is an awful burden to shoulder.

“Unfortunately, things involving me tend to evolve,” she told the Indianapolis Star. “I’m on the hot seat when I do something and when others do something. It’s kind of the line that I walk because I’m popular.”

It is too bad that Patrick suffers indignities because of her popularity.

But it could be worse.

She could be just another anonymous male IndyCar Series driver looking to score enough victories to be relevant.

That is the benefit of being a pretty face in a billboard doubling as a uniform.

Patrick possibly could help her cause with improved interpersonal skills, shocking as that notion may be to her.

Scott Dixon, the series leader, called Patrick “a menace” last month.

That opinion probably would be endorsed by Dan Wheldon and Ryan Briscoe, two drivers who piqued the ire of Patrick in separate incidents the last two seasons.

It undoubtedly stemmed from her popularity, a convenient defense whenever she goes after a driver who has committed a human rights violation against her.

To be fair, Patrick has it pretty good with the male drivers. She is allowed to have fits around them, because no male wants to be the one who goes after a 100-pound female.

Duno voiced the inequality of it all to the Star.

“I don’t like the show she likes in every race weekend,” Duno said. “She can push the guys because they cannot do anything to her. But she cannot push me. We meet on equal condition [as women], and I know what kind of character I have.”

So Duno showed Patrick, and what a show it was in “Race-Car Women Gone Wild.”

As it is, the fuss that envelops Patrick reflects the power of marketing more than performance on the track.

Patrick has only one victory in 60 career starts over four seasons, hardly an auspicious start. She has been in the lead of a race on only 20 laps. Yet she has been able to end comparisons to Anna Kournikova, the one-time tennis darling who used her sex appeal to advance her business interests while winning nothing.

Patrick is not opposed to exploiting her good looks and body either, as she did in provocative fashion in the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue last winter.

She has found fame and fortune in part because of her sex appeal.

Now she needs to find a life coach skilled in the art of communication.

Patrick must know that nobody likes a drama queen, especially one with a history.

She also must know that Duno had a good number of supporters, shouting, “You go, girl.”

And if Patrick’s popularity is part of the issue, that, too, is on her.

She is what she has endeavored to be.

And spoiled on top of it.

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